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In which things continue to speed up

Tomorrow I’m 30 weeks pregnant and today I’m 38 years old. I could be giving birth in 8 weeks! This is a little freaky. I’m getting a bit nervous about it, but it’s not like there’s anything I can do. I don’t know if the baby is in the right position yet, I’m getting some mighty painful kicks in tender southerly areas, but it’s hard to know if that’s from hands or feet. She was really active yesterday.

I’ve got some new insomnia rocking (check the time on this post). Mostly it’s because I’m waking up with hip pain again, and it’s become a bad idea to sleep on my back any more (last night I woke up with my hands going numb).

Even though my hands and feet swell intermittently, I’ve been hanging onto my engagement and wedding rings. Until last night when I burnt the crap out of my ring finger on the stove. Oops.

I’m still amazed by how I seem to have a different body every day. How it reacts to food, movement, temperature, etc. still changes all the time. The main problem I’m having is the baby is sitting really low lately, so I need to remember to wear a support thingy when I’m out and about to avoid a whole lot of uncomfortable pelvic pressure and pummeling.

We met with our doula this week and talked about birth. That was trippy. We’re now working on a birth plan and also a list of crap to bring to the hospital. It’s not like David can’t run home at certain points after the fun part is over, but we’re delivering at a hospital about 10 miles north of us, so it’s a bit of a haul (especially during rush hour).

Today I’m managing to get a massage and David is taking me to the Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie. On the less glamorous side, I’m also going to the dentist and waiting around the house for pest control. Still, not a bad day. Also, yoga.

Desperately Seeking Solace, or What I learned from Buddhism

This is a long rambley entry, so bear with me (or skip it.)

There is a lot to be learned from Buddhism, and it would be impossible absorb it all in one lifetime. Since I’ve moved away from the secularized version that is often practiced in America, and more towards Vedic, or Yogic traditions that form the foundations of both Buddhism and Hinduism, I’ve thought a lot about what didn’t serve me when I was practicing in the Shambala tradition. Namely, what I saw as a nihilistic need to regard a mystical experience of God as a crutch, and some ethical problems stemming from guru worship.

Recently I’ve started to realize how much I have integrated into my world and self-view, and how it has helped prepare me for this next phase of my own spiritual journey. At the same time, I’ve begun to observe a pattern among my friends and peers in the 35-45 age range, and my Buddhist studies have helped me frame them.

Things change. I can’t ignore it anymore. What’s more, I’m old enough that things are starting to fall down faster than I can build them up. I may build a successful company, and I may write books. I may start a family. But I can’t not get sick, I can’t not age and die, and I can’t keep those I love from experiencing the same things. I couldn’t keep Simon from dying, and though the death of a dog may not seem that big on a universal scale, it shook my foundations. If Simon could leave, so could everything else.

Yes, everything is impermanent, and no, just trying to get used to that idea is not enough to make it tolerable. Not for me, anyway. So ultimately, I needed more than Buddhism (or at least the version I was studying) had to offer. I suspect that a lot of people my age are struggling with this transition, from the attaining/building/growing phase of life, to the beginning of the slowing/ending/dissipating part of life.

I’ve sought solace in relationships for a long time. Friends, lovers, family, pets; I’ve sought peace and balance, love and acceptance from other beings. Buddhism says that this seeking is itself a cause of suffering, and that when we cease seeking, we can find our own innate place in the universe. Only last year, after losing my certainty about my career (after I left my last job), and my dog Simon was I able to admit that I didn’t know where I was going. That was really hard for me, because while I’ve never been one to join groups, I’ve always needed to identify myself with a verb of some kind: Student, Musician, Designer, Manager. I didn’t know anymore what word to use to identify myself, or what words I might use in the future.

It was in this place of uncertainty, when the some of the things I clung to were no longer there, that I was able to start listening to my higher self, or the collective unconscious, or God, or whatever I choose to call it on any given day. Whatever. I could feel this connection and recognize it consciously at the same time, and I couldn’t do that before. Why is this so important to me? Because life (and Buddhism) had taught me that nothing is stable, that things fall apart, and that clinging to them doesn’t change a damn thing. Buddhism helped me realize that most people struggle with this, whether or not they know it. But my core, or soul, is always there no matter how much things change.

Some people I know just keep speeding up. They’re the ones who have always been achievement focused, and have never really given themselves the option of just saying, “What the fuck am I doing?” and putting on the brakes for a while. If it worked before, and it’s not working now, just do more of it. In these people I recognize the same aversion that I see to sitting with my mind quietly and seeing what arises, rather than trying to plan and control everything. It’s funny how society brands depression as dysfunctional and those who experience it as less successful than those who just never stop. One way or another we all need a mental break sometimes. I think often depression is just our body-mind’s way of letting us hibernate and germinate ourselves so we can deal with whatever just happened, or what comes next.

Others have gravitated towards ideologies, or organizations that have cult-like qualities, be they for work, self-improvement, or religion. Where the power of groupthink seems to momentarily free them from the fear of the unknown, but the anxiety that drives them is still readily apparent. This too, I feel like I’ve dabbled in myself. I certainly felt for a while that in Shambala, perhaps I’d found a belief system trustworthy enough to leave my critical mind at the door. That didn’t work out so well.

Others have done what I was forced to do, and now am trying to sustain. Slowed down a bit. I still struggle daily with feeling as if I need to do more, be more, accomplish more. But on the other side of the equation, I can’t really understand who I am and who I may become if I’m always running towards or away from something. I’m not saying I’m good at doing things slower, far from it. But between the two polarities of the drive of individual accomplishment and the pull of groupthink mentality, it’s the only place that makes sense to me.

Buddhism prepared me for this place. I learned how to meditate, I learned to observe how the qualities of emotions and thoughts change when we observe them. I learned that there is no “being good at” in meditation, and that it’s just as valuable when it’s frustrating as when it’s transcendent. I started to learn to listen and be, instead of talk and do.

It seems as if we’re all finding ourselves well out of the barely post-adolescent mental state that is our twenties, and we’re all trying to figure out what that means. We’re losing grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, and all the wisdom that we lose with them. We’re creating new generations. We’re trying to figure out what is really important to us, and what doesn’t seem to matter so much anymore.

I know now that peace and contentment are way more important to me than excitement and drama. I like solitude and quiet a lot. Rather than condemning those who join religions, I believe in some form of God. I’m not so quick to judge people who believe different things than I do – spiritually or politically. I’m more interested in the creative process and less interested in showing off the results (though I think I will always be kind of a show-off). I’m more interested in healthy, strong relationships, and less interested in flattery and adulation. I know the difference now between real courage and empty bravado.

So what do you think? How are you dealing with this transition and how is it going? How have your values changed in the last few years? How are you finding meaning and fulfillment now as opposed to when you were younger? Drop me a line sometime and let me know.